Premier League braced for TV losses as player protests mount

Premier League clubs face having to pay a huge refund to broadcasters even if they manage to complete the coronavirus-disrupted season behind closed doors.

Broadcasters would be reimbursed for matches not being played as scheduled and the lack of atmosphere in empty stadiums is also a factor.

The BBC reported the bill facing the English top-flight, which continued talks on "Project Restart" on Monday, could be as high as �340 million ($420 million).

"We were able to update our clubs today on our situation with broadcasters, which is obviously confidential," said Premier League CEO Richard Masters.

"Whatever happens, there's going to be significant loss of revenue for clubs. That is inevitable.

"We were able to paint a picture today about what would happen in various scenarios, playing out the season and not playing out the season, to allow them to have a picture of that as we stand in the early part of May."

The rebate to broadcasters would surge to an estimated �760 million if the season cannot be completed. Masters has previously warned of a �1 billion loss once the absence of gate receipts is taken into account.

For the first time on Monday, the 20 Premier League clubs discussed models that may have to be used to decide final standings if it is not deemed safe to resume.

New government guidelines have paved the way for elite sport to return behind closed doors in England from June 1.

- Player fears -

However, England internationals Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose are the two latest high-profile players to raise their concerns over a return to contact sport when the rest of society is being advised to follow social-distancing guidelines.

"The moment we do go back it just needs to be a moment where it's not just for footballing reasons, it's safe for not just us footballers but the whole medical staff, referees," Sterling told his YouTube channel.

"(I am) not scared, but reserved and thinking what the worst outcome could be.

"I've had friends whose grandma has passed away, I've had family members as well that have passed away."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in parliament on Monday that the return of sport on TV would "provide a much-needed boost to national morale" in a country that has been one of the worst hit by the global pandemic, with the government officially recording more than 32,000 deaths from COVID-19.

"People's lives are at risk," Rose, who is on loan at Newcastle from Tottenham, told an Instagram live.

"Football shouldn't even be spoken about coming back until the numbers have dropped massively."

But Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of England's Professional Footballers' Association, said many of his members would be open to playing again provided "everything that can be done is being done" to assure their safety.

"We've got to try it, see if we can do it and see if we can return to some form of activity," Taylor told the Mirror.

"But it's also being as careful and having as many assurances as possible that it's achievable."

- Complications -

The Premier League are due to meet the PFA and the managers' union later this week to discuss protocols for a return to group training.

A further complication for Project Restart is where any matches would be played, with the clubs opposed to a proposal for a limited number of neutral venues to be used.

The UK's national football policing lead, previously stated resuming matches on a home-and-away basis would "present challenges" to the emergency services.

But Mark Roberts said on Tuesday that police, government and football authorities were working together on a plan "which minimises any risks to public safety and unnecessary pressure on public services, but facilitates a sensible restart to the season."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has come out against the idea of playing matches in the capital at this stage, with the city having been particularly badly hit by the pandemic.

Five of the 20 Premier League sides are based in London.

"With the country still in the grips of this crisis, and hundreds of people dying every day, he believes that it is too early to be discussing the resumption of the Premier League and top-flight sport in the capital," Khan's spokesperson told the Evening Standard.

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